Readsboro man diagnosed with Vermont's first case of coronavirus
DEERFIELD VALLEY- A Readsboro man has become the state's first patient diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus), and five area schools were closed on Monday in response to possible community exposure to the virus.
On Sunday, March 8, Vermont Health Department and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center officials announced that Vermont's first case of coronavirus had been identified in Bennington County. According to a hospital press release, the Tunnel Street resident went to the SVMC's emergency department with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The patient was admitted and placed in isolation in a negative-pressure room, and tested for COVID-19. Early testing results from the Vermont Department of Health came back as presumptive positive. On Sunday, the hospital said the patient is stable in an airborne infection isolation room.
According Vince Guest, who is the patient's landlord on Tunnel Street in Readsboro, he has received word that his friend and tenant is currently responsive, but on a respirator and can't communicate.
Guest says he and his wife were surprised Sunday morning by a visit from two men from the Vermont Department of Health dressed in “hazmat” suits. They didn't test him or his wife, or take any samples from the house. They were there to deliver the message that they may have been exposed to coronavirus. Guest and his wife have been quarantined for two weeks.
Guest says he now has at least two symptoms of the virus and will have to drive to Bennington this week to get tested, although he says he would prefer not to break quarantine and risk exposing anyone else. “What gets me is, they were here and knew we were exposed – why didn't they bring test kits with them? They were right here, and now we have to go back out to get tested. They should review their procedures.”
According to the hospital's news release, the health department is investigating the patient's travel history, but Guest says he is not a traveler. “He's a homebody. He might go out for a couple of drinks, go to the store, or go to Wilmington to visit friends, but that's about it.”
Another case of coronavirus was confirmed in nearby Clarksburg, MA.
On Sunday, Windham Southwest Supervisory Union officials were notified that “there was some level of exposure” to COVID-19 in the community. Although there was no specific health threat connected to area schools, superintendent Barbara Anne Komons-Montroll says the supervisory union decided to close the schools for a day “out of an abundance of caution.”
Komons-Montroll has put together a task force of administrators and health officials to create protocol for the district's response to the virus. They used the day to gather information in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and to clean and disinfect school facilities and buses. “The custodians have done a deep cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces in the buildings,” Komons-Montroll said. “Teachers will do their best to disinfect desks again at least one time per day. Custodians will disinfect daily all high-touch surfaces like door knobs, the area around door knobs, crash bars, and counter tops. Bus seats and any surface anyone would have touched have also been disinfected. Bus drivers will disinfect seats and all high-touch areas between trips.”
The supervisory union has also instituted hand washing protocols, which include the use of hand sanitizers upon entry to a school facility, and hand washing before meals and after restroom use.
The schools will open on Tuesday after a two-hour delay to brief and train teachers on the new protocols and procedures. But Komons-Montroll says anyone who is sick should stay home. “If you're sick with a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, please stay home.”
SVMC says the best way to prevent the virus is to avoid being exposed. They recommend people avoid close contact with anyone who is sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe; and practice good hand hygiene.
More information can be found at SVMC's website, svhealthcare.org; the website of the Vermont Department of Health, healthvermont.gov; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, CDC.gov.